Healthy Stephen Weiss Could Pay Dividends

It’s the 2013 NHL Offseason. The Red Wings, originally planning to have Finnish center Valtteri Filppula be the team’s number two center for years to come, are not seeing eye-to-eye with the then 29-year old talent in contract talks. Eventually, it was clear he was not going to return as the dollar figures were not lining up. Filppula ended up in Tampa Bay, where he would be playing for GM Steve Yzerman and the Lightning. The Wings had a hole in their depth chart, and interestingly enough, went to the sunshine state to fetch their replacement. Enter long-time Florida Panther and franchise record holder Stephen Weiss.

Weiss landed in Hockeytown bringing a solid pedigree with him. He had Michigan connections from the start, playing three years in Plymouth with the OHL’s Whalers. He impressed, putting up 223 points in 172 regular season games from 1999-2002. This earned him a World Juniors trip as an 18-year old to the Czech Republic. In six games he had three goals and an assist. After World Juniors, Weiss got his first chance with the Panthers playing seven games in 2001-02. The following season, he saw his games played jump to 77 and as a 19-year old Weiss had six goals and 21 points. In 2003-04, he ran into a little injury trouble and played only 50 games but saw his point total rise to 29. After being assigned to the AHL during the 2004-05 NHL Lockout, Weiss looked to a fresh start in 05-06. Instead, he only played half the season due to injury and put up 21 points, the same as his rookie season. At age 23, the fresh start Weiss was looking for would begin in the 2006-07 season as he would average 75+ games played playing 80 games twice with 74 being his lowest in a span of six seasons. As one could imagine, as Weiss got healthier, his point production followed suit and increased. The Ontario native would top out at 61 points in 08-09 and would finish below 45 points once in the six season span. Discounting his injury riddled 2012-13 season, the Red Wings liked his pedigree enough and were determined to fill the hole in the depth chart to such a great extent that Weiss was signed to a five-year, $24.5 million contract. Playing with stars such as Johan Franzen and Daniel Alfredsson, this seemed to be a great opportunity for a player who just turned 30. Little did the Wings know that it would be one of the shortest and disappointing first seasons for a free agent signing in team history.

Coming into training camp for the 2013-14 season, head coach Mike Babcock mentioned firsthand that he would have to compete hard or he would not like it in Hockeytown. Sure enough, the season rolls around and the two new free agent prizes were on the ice together on the second line. A few weeks later, they were victims of Detroit’s injury plague, with Daniel Alfredsson being the one to battle through and play for most of the year. Weiss was not so lucky. Through 26 games he had two goals and four points, and it was revealed that he was playing through a groin injury from the start of camp. It eventually was determined that Weiss needed core muscle surgery for a sports hernia and was targeting a Feburary return. That expectation fell through the cracks as well, as Weiss suffered multiple setbacks that put him out for the season. A new beginning soon turned into a nightmare for both the team and player. Expected to be the number two center, Weiss was anything but. Not all hope is gone however, at least from this writer’s perspective.

So, going into camp for the 2014-15 season, what is the outlook and expectations for Stephen Weiss? There is money to be paid and years to be played, and year two seems to be getting off to a solid start from a health perspective. GM Ken Holland confirmed that he received a text from Piet Van Zant (Wings trainer) that Weiss was skating, looked great and will be pain free headed into camp. Judging from last year’s pain right from the start, it’s good to hear that so far it is nonexistent for now. Coming off of core surgery with months of offseason time to heal and get back into shape, it is fair to expect a rebound from a healthy Weiss. This writer believes that if Weiss truly is and stays healthy, he will contribute a great deal to the Wings in that second line role and will provide some solid depth scoring. In fact, if the whole team can avoid most of the major injury plague sustained last season, the success rate will jump tenfold. However, this healthy outlook begins with Weiss. Fused in with current stars such as Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk along with the young talent of tomorrow, the healthy Stephen Weiss that the Wings saw all those seasons playing on the opposing side could wind up being one of their greatest assets in a rebound season for not only Weiss but the team itself.

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Stephen Weiss bio and stats courtesy of Hockey Reference

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Reports: Tony Granato Hired by Red Wings

The Red Wings’ assistant coaching search was announced as halfway done this afternoon.

Shortly after it was announced that former assistant Tom Renney was tabbed to be president of Hockey Canada, the Wings made their move. After an interview a few days ago, the Red Wings braintrust determined Monday that Tony Granato was the right man for the job. He brings in a resume as both an NHL player and coach behind the bench. Granato played 13 years for the Rangers, Kings, and Sharks, spending most of his time on the west coast. He won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 1997, overcoming the adversity of a near career-ending brain injury. He got into coaching after being hired by the Avalanche as an assistant in 2002-03, filling in as the head coach for the last 51 games of that campaign, compiling a 32-11-4-4 record. The following season he attained 40 wins and coached the Avs to a conference semifinal appearance. He was then put back in the assistant coaching slot from ’05-08 then promoted again to head coach in 2008-09. Overall, his head coaching record is 104-78-17-16. The last five seasons, he has been an assistant for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Overall, this appears to be a solid hiring by the Red Wings. Granato excells in the penalty killing coaching department, an area that saw Detroit finish 12th in the league this past season. Under Granato, the Pittsburgh Penguins had a top ten PK unit four times, top five three times, and the best unit in the league in 2010-11. An area where Detroit was already solid in just got a boost at their helm from the outset.

An interesting sidenote on this hiring could include the possible idea of hiring former Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma as the second assistant, who had Granato as an assistant in five of his six years coaching there and played under current Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock from ’02-04 in Anaheim. Could the Grand Haven, Michigan native Bylsma want to come to a familiar situation he had as a player and as a coach? That is up to him and the Red Wings’ braintrust. For now, the first vacancy appears to have been filled successfully with Granato, and it will be interesting to see how the rest of the search goes for assistant number two.

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Granato resume courtesy of Hockey Reference and Pittsburgh Penguins website.

Is This Real Life? Cleary Signs Back in Detroit

No, it unfortunately is not a nightmare, this is real life.

The Detroit Red Wings 2014 offseason has just hit a new low, as they pour salt in the wound with a Dan Cleary signing that leaves more than a few people scratching their heads. With two knees that are shot, the 35-year old Newfoundlander was given a raise! The deal goes for $1.5 million with $1 million in bonuses. BONUSES! Cleary played 52 games last year and had a whopping eight points and was a minus 11. He missed time after being a healthy scratch for most of January then being injured the rest of the year. Let us be reminded that this man was the reason Gustav Nyquist did not start the year in Detroit last season. He will more than likely prevent yet another sparkling prospect in Tomas Jurco from joining the team in October as well. Just a few hours ago, Ken Holland has stressed that he will have to beat people out to make the team, and that better be true because experience for the 21-year old is the best medicine.

Here’s a stat that just makes the signing that much more gruesome: Tomas Jurco had more points in 36 games played, (15) than Cleary had in his 52 games played, eight. (Winging It In Motown) Can you say deja vu? (Nyquist)

This now points fingers at Detroit’s GM, Ken Holland. What can you say about what he has brought Detroit since taking over as GM in 1997? Four Stanley Cups won, 100 point season after 100 point season, draft steals that still have people talking, etc. However, his turnouts in the last few offseasons have just been downright terrible. In 2012, Detroit swung and missed at every decent free agent and signed Jordin Tootoo, Mikael Samuelsson, Kyle Quincey, and Carlo Colaiacovo. In an offseason that saw Tomas Holmstrom and Nick Lidstrom retire, it was a poor showing to say the least. Fast forward two years later. Here’s his chance to redeem himself. Big name defensemen on the market including Matt Niskanen, Anton Stralman, Christian Ehrhoff, and Dan Boyle. He swung and missed on all of them and has signed Kyle Quincey so far without making a trade, which should be interesting to follow throughout the summer. Getting back to what Ken Holland has done lately, it has just been sadly unreal how the past two offseasons have turned out. This writer is not on the #FireHolland bandwagon, but with the Cleary signing that was described as a “verbal agreement”, it’s just the cherry on the disappointment sundae.

This writer, along with all of Hockeytown hopes that Ken Holland comes to his senses sooner than later and gives up his “verbal agreements” with veterans. This team has a very bright future ahead of them, and the last thing they need is a signing like this.

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Thank you for reading. Please take a moment to follow me on Twitter-@gSchroedes16 and @TWWHockey

Free Agency Aftermath: Detroit Red Wings

Hockeytown has had a few days to digest what went down on July 1st, but the effects still seem to be rippling.

Every big name free agent was offered a solid deal by the hockey club, but in an event that would not have been thought of ten years ago, each one was turned down. Hockeytown, once a haven for free agents that lined up to go sign, was shut out. Matt Niskanen went to go play with a team that had Ovechkin. Christian Ehrhoff, once asking the Wings for five years and then signing for one and $4 million went to go to Pittsburgh to play for what he described as a “good team”. Dan Boyle took less money to go to play for New York on Broadway. When Anton Stralman’s agent was asked if Detroit was on his list, his answer was a swift “no”. Amazing how things have changed. Is it the recently declared bankrupt Detroit? Is it Mike Babcock’s demanding demeanor? The aged arena? Well, all of these suggestions have been put forth by fans and media and this writer completely disagrees with all of them. Let’s take a look at the talent on the ice. Datsyuk and Zetterberg still have a lot to put forth, the young talent is filtering through, the playoffs have been made 23 straight years, who wouldn’t want to come to this place?

There is one fault with the Red Wings right now. They are not serious Cup contenders. All these free agents wanted to go to a place that they felt were an impact player or two away from vaulting into Cup contention. One could argue that the Wings were in this same boat, instead turned down for other possible reasons. However, with one of the best prospect pools in the league, the Wings have a sparkling future in front of them with Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Jurco leading the charge. Is it the nonexistent patience? The desire to go to a “win-now” situation? Ken Holland himself suprisingly doesn’t even know why the big names aren’t coming here. This writer is puzzled at that as is Holland, as the Wings got their men last year in Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson. But this year, the Wings swung and missed again, and for the second time in three offseasons are the ones no one wants to dance with. How does this affect this next season? Well, it might not be as bad as people think.

Coming into the 2014-15 season, the Red Wings are basically the same team, but with young guns for shaping up to be around for the whole season. There are some challenging to crack the opening night roster for the first time as well, with guys like Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, and Teemu Pulkkinen knocking on the door. This writer believes Ouellet and Sproul will have the best shot to make the team as the fifth and sixth defensemen playing together. The feeling stems from the fact that this pair gives this writer more comfort than a pair like Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff, even though they are unproven. Another factor is the Daniel Alfredsson decision. Will he stay, or will he hang em up? The Wings may not know until August. This could be an issue in a delayed possible trade or acquisition to recreate his production. It will be interesting to see how his situation plays out.

One final factor has got to be health. Last year, it was laughable. Stephen Weiss played 26 games. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk only played 29 games simultaneously. The only two players that played all 82 games were Drew Miller and recently signed Kyle Quincey. If the Wings can stay just a little bit healthier than last year, it could make a huge difference in turning 39 wins into 45+. Fully healthy, this team is very talented and with highly touted prospects like the ones mentioned before coming into their own, they could be even better than last year. There are many factors that play into this success for next season, but health is the biggest one. More games in which Datsyuk is setting up Zetterberg and Stephen Weiss is scoring can go a long way in changing this team’s fortunes for next season. Until then, we can just envision what could be in these summer months.

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featured image courtesy of mbd.scout.com

Mike Babcock’s Jack Adams Case

“I told if we just do it the Red Wing way we’re going to get in”

-Mike Babcock

With Pavel Datsyuk out for weeks at a time and even months, no Henrik Zetterberg for the stretch run, no Johan Franzen, Daniel Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss, Jonathan Ericsson, etc for lengthy periods of time, Mike Babcock still got it done. It was almost unfair on Detroit’s part with all the injuries they sustained, including missing 5 centers at one point. However, you have to play with the cards you’re dealt as they say, and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock would be the first to tell you that.

With the organizational farm being purged for prospects to minimize the effects of the plague, Babcock all of a sudden had an inexperienced group of kids on his hands. That didn’t stop his strong influence. Kids like Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Gustav Nyquist, and more were taken under the coach’s wing, and the results speak for themselves.

With the kids playing like ten year veterans, it gave a glimpse of what the future could be like in Hockeytown, and that future looks sparkling. But with the Red Wings’ 22 year playoff streak on the line, it was a case of “what could you do for me now”, and these kids had a lot riding on their shoulders. The tradition of Red Wing past was on the line, and adversity was high. However, they all had the right man to lead them, and that was Mike Babcock.

In total, 9 players made their NHL debuts, the most since the early 90s for the franchise. Each, in their own way, contributed to the effort to make the postseason and extend the streak. There was some veteran influence with players that have been there, with guys like Daniel Alfredsson providing a sense of leadership, but when an influx of kids like this comes in, a team has to have to have the right bench boss to coach them, and that’s Mike Babcock.

Now, not taking anything away from Jon Cooper or Patrick Roy and their respective seasons, they did a tremendous job. Cooper led the Tampa Bay Lightning back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and logged 46 wins. This was without Steven Stamkos for a few months and with rising rookies like Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Kilhorn. Amazing season for Cooper, his team, and GM Steve Yzerman, but the favorite appears to be the Red Wings’ former enemy Patrick Roy.

Roy, to say the least, had a pretty solid inaugural coaching season. The Avalanche were the 2nd worst team in the NHL last season and have been in the bottom three of the league the last few years. This season, they logged 52 wins and won the Central Division, beating out late-season slumping Chicago and St. Louis. With young talent like Matt Duchene, Captain Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Tyson Barrie along with a serious Vezina candidate in the form of Seymon Varlamov, Roy coached them into winners. He took them from worst to first, a rarity in the National Hockey League and a worthy accolade for coach of the year.

However, with all the challenges that these two coaches faced with their respective teams, they did not face the magnitude of adversity that Mike Babcock and his team faced this season. This writer may be biased as a Red Wings fan, but from the mangames lost and the type of talent that the Wings were missing all season with injuries that just kept coming and with kids being inserted into big roles with lines being juggled at will, it took a serious man behind the bench to keep the team stable. It was Mike Babcock.

Firmly believing that this was the best coaching that Babcock has ever done in his career, this writer believes that the winningest coach in Red Wings franchise history has a big time case for the 2014 Jack Adams award. Jon Cooper deserves tremendous consideration for his season with Tampa as does the bench boss in Colorado. Patrick Roy with the work he did in his first season with the Avalanche getting his team to believe that they could be winners deserves plenty of consideration, and this writer believes that he will end up winning the award based on his instant results in the long run. However, for a team to have 421 mangames lost and have leading players missing for tremendous amounts of time as the Red Wings did, it takes a serious calming influence of a coach to steady the team’s course with inexperienced players and missing talent. Mike Babcock was that influence, and that is why his case is very strong for this award.

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Quote and amount of mangames lost courtesy of Mlive.com

Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning players and team statistics courtesy of NHL.com

Featured Image Courtesy of Grantland.com

Detroit Red Wings: NHL Draft Storylines and Preview

Well, it’s that time of year again. The wait for October is full swing as we head into the meat of the NHL Offseason with the NHL Draft and Free Agent Frenzy. First out of the two is the NHL Draft, and it looks to be relatively shallow this year in the talent pool. Nonetheless, the Red Wings shine on this occasion no matter what kind of draft it is and there are many interesting storylines again this time around.

Depth Between the Pipes

On the Detroit Red Wings organizational depth chart, there are many positions that are pretty stocked up with players that look to have sparkling futures in the NHL. The questionable spot is goaltending. The Wings have Petr Mrazek waiting in the wings in the AHL to be a probable everyday starter in the NHL, as well as World Juniors representative for Canada Jake Paterson and back-up goalie Jared Coreau in the AHL as well. Outside of that however, the depth for the future is a question. Look for the Wings to answer this in rounds 3-7 if tenders like Brandon Halverson, Devin Williams, or Matthew Mancina are available.

Will Size Be a Factor?

The Wings have one of the deepest prospect pools in the league, but there is one area offensively where the Wings lack strength in: sizable forwards. In today’s game, size seems to be an increasingly important factor, in the regular season and even more in the postseason. The current crop of forwards the Red Wings have is one of the most talented and highly touted in the league with their versatile quality. Guys like Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, and Anthony Mantha have shown this quality in their respective leagues. Pulkkinen and Mantha have been the snipers and Tatar, Jurco, Athanasiou, and Nyquist have shown their speed and elusiveness that NHL and NHL caliber forwards have. Currently, Marek Tvrdon, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Nosek and Louis-Marc Aubry are the good-size guys in the system for Detroit. To supplant these prospects with another big body or two would be a solid decision to make for the Red Wings braintrust going forward. Model players for this addition include Alex Tuch, Brendan Lemieux, Hunter Smith, and Shane Eiserman to name a few on the North American side.

Depth At the Back End

When one thinks Red Wings defensemen waiting in the Wings, one thinks of names like Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul, Alexey Marchenko, Adam Almqvist (Signed in KHL), and even European newcomer Mattias Backman. There’s no question that these names have solid potential to be the next defensive core that the Red Wings have to offer, but they could be coming up quite soon and fast. With defensemen Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff having regressive seasons, they look expendable. Jonathan Ericsson has had plenty of years to develop and he still hasn’t found a way to put it all together. This offseason, the Red Wings have a decision to make with their current state of the blue line: Do they go internal with their top defensive studs, or grab a veteran or two from the free agent or trade market? Either decision the Wings make, the position of defenseman on the organizational depth chart could use a little bolstering with their top defensive prospects’ NHL days seeming sooner than later. Notable prospects after the top five include Nick Jensen, Max Nicastro, and Marc McNulty. Top players who could boost the organizational depth of the back end include Anthony DeAngelo, Julius Honka and Haydn Fleury if available, Roland McKeownBrandon Montour, and Gavin Bayreuther.

To Trade Or Not to Trade

With the Red Wings literally in the middle of the pack of the draft this year, there is always the question of trading up or trading down for more picks in the later rounds or a higher first rounder. Last year saw the Wings trading down, which saw them eventually snag Anthony Mantha, the only 50-goal scorer in the draft and possibly the next great NHL sniper. The draft is labeled as relatively shallow after the top players this year including Aaron Ekblad, Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl, Michael Dal Colle, etc. Would the Wings be willing to give up one of their key future pieces for an immediate impactful player like one of the top 20? It’s up in the air, and if the Wings were to trade for a higher selection my bet would be to draft a defenseman. Since Ekblad is expected to be the in the top three and Haydn Fleury along with Julius Honka are expected to be picked a shave higher than Detroit, it wouldn’t be totally out of the question for the latter guys. Since the Wings are extremely successful in later rounds, if there are any trades involved with Detroit, it is more likely to be a trade down rather than up for more picks in later rounds, likely the 2nd round with the absence of a pick there from the David Legwand trade. However, one never knows what Ken Holland has up his sleeve. Being a relatively conservative GM however, the trade down is more likely, if any trade occurs dealing with picks. For current NHL players on the trade block? Well, that’s just another thought that’s flowing through Holland’s head until the Wings are on the clock.

Who Do They Pick On Friday Night?

With the 15th pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings select…..Alex Tuch.

This is a very tricky selection. There are many players that fit Detroit’s system that they could take at #15, but this writer believes that Alex Tuch is the best of those. Tuch recently completed his 2nd tour of duty with the U-18 United States National Team Development Program, and he finished with a bang. A +35, 7 game-winning goals kind of bang. He also chipped in with 29 goals and 64 points in 53 games, good for third on the team. Tuch is 6’4″ and 213 pounds, and shoots right(a bonus). He also is versatile, as he can play right wing and center. This is a quality that Detroit has always liked with its forwards, as many in their system have this ability to slot in at different positions. Tuch possesses this ability along with having a good size frame of 213 lbs. A much needed big guy that fits the system; a match made in heaven for the Red Wings. He has comitted to Boston College to play hockey in the Fall, and it may be a while for him to make it to the NHL, but it would be a wait worth while.

If Not Tuch….

Haydn Fleury (Defenseman, Red Deer Rebels, WHL)

If the Wings choose to go to defense for their 1st round pick, Haydn Fleury would be the best option if still available. His size is preferred for a future NHL defenseman(6’2″, 202 lbs) and his skating ability is grade A. The ability he has to start up rushes is sparkling, and he would fit right in with Detroit’s farm of good puck movers. He had eight goals and 46 points in 70 games, leading the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL on defense. It is likely that he will go before the Red Wings make their pick, but if he is still available, he could be a valuable future piece of a building blueline in Hockeytown should the Wings consider.

Highlights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kh1AHKGybNw (YT user bigwhite06)

Jared McCann (Center, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)

A position once filled to the brim in the Detroit Red Wings farm, centers have come up and down from the AHL and NHL and the depth has thinned just a tick. Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, and Landon Ferraro all saw some NHL time this season, and the first two of the three could be on the starting roster for Detroit on opening night. Ferraro is an up and comer, and looks to be the next center on the horizon for the Red Wings with Mattias Janmark going overseas and Calle Jarnkrok getting traded to Nashville.  Unless, Jared McCann comes in. McCann is 6’0″, 175 lbs. and has a whole lot of promise. A left-handed shooter, McCann tallied 27 goals and 62 points in 64 games. He models his two-way style off of Jonathan Toews, and can rip shots with the best of them. If Tuch is taken ahead or McCann is available, he would be a good candidate that will float in Ken Holland’s head come pick time.

Highlights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Umr1Ip5SimU (YT user bigwhite06)

Julius Honka (Defenseman, Swift Current Broncos, WHL)

Again, if the Wings want to go defensive, they’d be taking a chance with Julius Honka. If available, he would bring a size of 5’7″ and 180 lbs. At first thought,  that size will scare most. However, don’t just look at this kid’s size. His body of work he’s turned in is pretty impressive given that he is the #11th ranked skater in North America. He chipped in 16 goals and 56 points in 62 games, a solid body of work for a defenseman in any league. His uncanny ability to put a shot through traffic and feed his teammates getting into open space is highly touted. The big question is his size. Honka has his doubters to be an NHL defenseman, but with a kid this talented offensively, it might not matter in the long run.

Highlights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDYpDxpB5Zw (YT user bigwhite06)

Anthony DeAngelo (Defenseman, Sarnia Sting, OHL)

Talk about point production, if this guy is available, he could lead the charge of the next great Red Wings defensive core. Anthony DeAngelo has progressed in his career in the OHL the last three years. In 11 fewer games than 2012-13, DeAngelo produced 13 more points for a total of 71 in 51 games, chipping in 15 goals in 2013-14. Another smaller guy, DeAngelo is 5’11”, 170 lbs. He certainly will need to bulk up, but when he does, he has a lot of potential to be a star for Detroit on the back end with the talent he has. A grade A skater, wonderful puck mover who can get the puck to the net through traffic, and one who has silky smooth hands. That’s Anthony DeAngelo. Hey, the Anthony the Wings picked in the first round last year looks to have a big future, why not this one?

Highlights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Y6EZelod3I (YT user Prospect Guru)

Sonny Milano (Left Wing, USA US-18, USHL)

If the Wings want to add another piece to their left wing crop, Sonny Milano could be a great addition at 15. In his 3rd year in the USA Development System, he had his best year yet. In 50 games, Milano totalled 24 goals and 72 points. If there’s one thing to note about Milano, it’s his one-on-one play. An explosive skater, Milano has the hands to skate through defensemen at will. He’s got a good shot and tremendous puck moving ability. At 6’0″ and 183 lbs., Milano has plenty of room for growth. He has committed to Boston College to play hockey in the Fall, so it might be a while for Milano like it might be for Alex Tuch. With the talent Milano has, he would be worth the wait.

Highlights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pz0dX8SPyC0 (YT user Bo Freatman)

Dylan Larkin (Center, USA US-18, USHL)

If the Wings want to go closer to home, they have their player in Dylan Larkin. A center that would add depth to the prospect pool at that position, the Waterford native is 6’1″ and 190 lbs. In 53 games with the USA-18 Development Team, Larkin topped 49 points, with 29 goals. He has been with the USA Development Camp for two seasons, and he had a 22 point increase from the previous season, adding 16 more goals. Larkin is certainly growing fast, and he has made his committment to college for the Fall. He will attend the University of Michigan and play under Red Berenson, a coach who has taken a great number of future NHL players under his wing, most recently Carl Hagelin, Jacob Trouba, Max Pacioretty and Luke Glendening. If a gritty center is on their radar, the Red Wings would be making a good pick taking Larkin at 15 to add to their deep pool of prospects.

Highlight:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgRsCw8xJZc (YT user bigwhite06)

Kevin Fiala (Center, EURO HV 71 Jr., SHL)

This guy already gets points for his nationality. The Wings love their Swedes, and it would be no different with Kevin Fiala. In 27 games this past season, he totalled 10 goals and 25 points. Fiala is far from one-dimensional. He backchecks, his forecheck is impressive, and his ability to drive the net for his size(5’9″, 178 lbs.) is solid. His two-way play fits the Wings’ system and would provide a solid future piece at the center position. With the all-around talent Fiala has, he could become the next Super Swede in Hockeytown for future years. If the Wings want to go overseas with their efforts to build back up the center pool, Fiala would be the best option at his position.

Highlights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsKw6Xnw49c (YT user bigwhite06)

There are certainly many storylines and possible players to pick for Detroit at selection #15. Will they answer the goaltending depth, use size as a factor, build up depth at the blueline or faceoff circle, or even trade for a player or more picks? All the questions will be answered tonight in Philadelphia, and the excitement in the hockey world is mounting.

Let’s Go Kenny H.

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Detroit Sports Broadcasters

-@gSchroedes16

-@TWWHockey

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Detroit Red Wings prospect information courtesy of HockeysFuture

2014 NHL Draft Prospect information courtesy of NHL.com

Highlight videos courtesy of YouTube users bigwhite06, Bo Freatman, and Prospect Guru.

Featured image courtesy of Freep.com

 

 

 

Why the Red Wings Didn’t Need to Bring Back Gustavsson

The announcement of Jonas Gustavsson’s 1-year deal to return to Detroit for the 2014-15 season has met some mixed reactions.

Gustavsson, who was 16-5-4 with a 2.63 GAA and .907 save % in 2013-14, played reasonably well in the back-up role. However, he was often injured, limited to 27 games. At one point, him and Jimmy Howard were both injured, opening the door for 22-year old stud Petr Mrazek to play a few games. We’ll get to him later.

Gustavsson’s groin problems haven’t been limited to just this past season, as in 2013 he played in only 7 games due to that nagging injury. His durability is certainly an issue and is a main question mark in the decision to bring him back for one more season.

As mentioned above, Petr Mrazek enters the equation. Mrazek burst onto the scene in 2012-13 with Red Wings’ AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins and made a bold impact. He went 23-16-2 boasting a 2.33 GAA and .916 save % in the regular season, but saved his best for last. Mrazek led the team to its first Calder Cup Championship, posting a dazzling 2.31 GAA in the playoffs and constantly saving his team’s hide in shutting down the opposition, covering up his team’s mistakes.

Mrazek has now been down in the AHL for a combined season and a half, sporadically coming up with the Wings in case of injury. In 11 games combined in 2012-13 and 2013-14, Mrazek has gone 3-5-0, with 2.02 and 1.74 GAAs respectively. He has given up 17 goals at the NHL level. The goal support? Well, it’s a process, given his great numbers and subpar record. If that’s not NHL ready, who knows what is.

One can make a case for Gustavsson over Mrazek for a few reasons. For starters, Mrazek has only been down in the AHL for a season and a half, and may not be fully seasoned yet. Another case could be that for the potential Mrazek has, Ken Holland doesn’t want him sitting the bench for almost half the season with Jimmy Howard taking most of the reps. With how the Red Wings season their prospects for the NHL, that wouldn’t be a bad argument for a projected full time starter.

However, all arguments aside, it’s a mistake to bring back Gustavsson. Bringing him back for another year only delays the impact Petr Mrazek could have on the goaltending situation. Having Mrazek in the back-up slot could give Jimmy Howard some recognition that he needs to fight for his starter job with Mrazek being the age he is and bringing the past pedigree he has. This would give him drive to keep the job while Mrazek gets some solid experience at the NHL level. When Howard’s time comes to an end in Hockeytown, that experience could pay dividends in the long run. Hopefully “The Monster” does well in his 3rd year with Detroit, but for long-term, it’s time to break the chains and free Mrazek.

-@gSchroedes16

-@TWWHockey

-@LastWordOnSports

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